MUHS boys’ soccer team’s dream season just keeps rolling

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ soccer team took another step toward the program’s finest regular season and a top seed in Division I on Tuesday, when the Tigers turned back visiting Rice, 2-1, and improved to 11-1.
The Tigers conclude their season at Lake Division rival Milton (5-6-2) on Friday. MUHS defeated the Yellowjackets, but only by 1-0, at home on Sept. 21.
If the Tigers prevail, it appears they will earn at least a No. 2 seed in the D-I tournament, according to standings on the Vermont Principals’ Association website.
The Tigers won’t look past Milton, but at the same time, said senior Shaw McCabe, they know their postseason begins next week — the VPA pairings come out on Monday, and the Tigers will host a game soon afterward.
McCabe, who played both center midfield and striker vs. Rice and contributed a goal and an assist, said the Tigers expect to be challenged, and to answer it.
“I’m sure that people are going to be looking to knock us off after having such a good season,” McCabe said. “But I think we can back our season up when it comes to playoffs.”
This year’s team is experienced in more ways than one, he said — eight seniors started on Tuesday, and many players are devoted year-round to the sport.
“We’ve got a lot of players who have played soccer as a younger kid and working with club programs,” McCabe said. “We’ve always had great athletes on our soccer team, but this is the first year we’ve really played good soccer, something that we can compete against Metro teams with.”
Still, for whatever reason on Tuesday — a wet field, Senior Day emotions, and a Rice team that MUHS coach Doc Seubert said is better than its 3-8-3 record (four of those losses are to Metro teams) — the Tigers did not put their best feet forward in a scoreless first half.
MUHS maintained an edge in possession, but failed to translate that advantage into meaningful chances — Rice goalie Connor Gorman made one first-half save. McCabe and senior Nico Mackey created a couple threats in the half, senior Akeem Pottinger’s 18-yard bid set up by Morgan Ingenthron was deflected wide, and Gorman beat Oliver Clark to a long ball served by senior stopper Nick Leach.
Rice striker Hussein Hussein threatened twice. Tiger senior goalie David Burt pushed his 15-yard shot wide left in the 16th minute after Hussein picked off a pass, and Tiger back Connor West broke up a Hussein run in the 27th minute.
The half ended with Rice earning a 2-1 edge in shots. But in the second half the Tigers outshot the Knights, 15-4; better used the width of the field to create chances; capitalized twice; and, with the exception of two miscues on defense, continued to be steady in the back.
“We just started playing to feet more in the second half, putting together passes and moving without the ball,” McCabe said. “We broke them apart and we were in alone a couple times.”
Seubert said he and assistant coach Bret Weekes didn’t really have to tell the Tigers what they were doing wrong at halftime — they and the coaches all knew MUHS needed to be smarter with the ball.
“We finally got wise and started opening up play a little bit,” Seubert said. “The kids show character when they play. They want to do the right things. I thought they were a little flat in the first half, but they sorted it out at halftime.”
Early on Pottinger threatened, and several Tigers had a shot at a direct kick that senior Christian Higgins served into the box. MUHS dodged one bullet in the sixth minute, when Hussein carved out space and Burt tipped his 10-yard blast over the bar.
MUHS broke through in the 13th minute, when Mackey sent McCabe in to the right of goal, and his sharply angled shot eluded Gorman. The Tigers nearly made it 2-0 three minutes later, but Rice back Danilo Varela made a save on a Pottinger shot.
In the 19th minute, the Tigers lost containment on talented Rice center back Caleb Lothian at midfield, and he waltzed to the top of the box and left-footed the ball into the lower right corner to make it 1-1.
The Tigers kept coming, and in the 29th minute scored again. McCabe set up shot just outside the right side of the box and fed Ingenthron, who cut inside a defender at the penalty stripe. Ingenthron one-timed the ball inside the right post, giving Gorman no chance.
Moments later, Gorman (seven saves) denied a McCabe breakaway, but it didn’t really matter. The Tiger defense — senior Connor Collins at sweeper played exceptionally well, and West and Max Livingstone-Peters on the flanks and Leach at stopper were all solid, as was senior central midfield Marrott Weekes — didn’t allow Rice any good looks at Burt, who finished with just two saves.
Other seniors suiting up for their last regular-season home game were defender Nathan Billings and midfielders Micah Lynch, Will Koller and Arlon Staats.
Fan support was also strong on Tuesday, something the Tigers appreciated.
“This was the biggest crowd we’ve had this year, so it was important to get a win in front of our school,” McCabe said.
Supporters could see as many as three more games, depending on Friday’s result.
“Every game is big, and that’s so much fun for these guys, that every game matters,” Seubert said. “They have a drive, and we’ll just see where it takes us. It’s fun.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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